A Game of Three Halves
For the past few years, my first post each January has been a review of the previous year’s writerly achievements followed by my plans for the coming twelve months. I’ve always tried to put a positive spin on the first part, even if I’ve not hit every target. And in the second part, I’ve usually set out such a long list of goals that it’s quite clear from the beginning I was going to struggle with them – and would have to put a positive spin on the results the following year – again! And so we come to the first Monday in 2021. What do I have to say this time?
Well, to start with, I don’t have a list of targets to report on. My plan for the year, as posted on 6th January 2020, was as follows:
For 2020, I have made no resolutions at all. I have an operation coming up in March which is going to impact significantly on my mobility, although hopefully only short-term. And before that, I am taking on Trustee roles for two charities. As for the rest, I’m going to go with the flow and concentrate on having more fun along the way. After all, that’s why I started this writing lark in the first place.
And how did I get on? To answer that, I’m going to divide the year into three parts.
January to July
For obvious reasons, my operation was postponed and finally took place in August. In the first seven months of the year, I had several goes at getting my latest novel, Murder at Mountjoy Manor, ready for publication. It’s a change from my previous books: a cosy murder, rather than a thriller; set in Devon, rather than in Russia, Latin America or Africa. And, to be honest, I struggled. But I got it to a reasonable state by the time it went off to my beta readers on 1st August. My plan was to give it a month for all the feedback to arrive, and then get back to it in September.
At the same time as this was going on, along with the rest of the country, I was getting used to living in a bubble, spending many hours on Zoom, and passing lots of time thinking about exercising, ordering food deliveries, and cooking at home. I grew more vegetables last summer than ever before – and some were even edible! The two Trustee roles were relatively low key, as all our planned activities were cancelled.
I wrote and delivered two lots of scripts for Pause for Thought on BBC Radio Devon; took part in a writing project under the umbrella of Literature Works, where I ended up writing and delivering a murder mystery story in answer to a scenario set by Writer-in-Residence Martyn Waites. And I experimented with delivering training webinars online. I still have a few things to master there – like remembering to hit ‘record’ before starting – but I have hopes for developing this as a delivery medium in the future.
August to October
I had been warned that knee replacement surgery would be painful and take a long period of recuperation. I hadn’t been warned about the mess it would make of my brain. It may be the effect of the anaesthetic; or the physical shock of the operation; but I found myself incapable of concentrating on writing, or even reading much, for weeks. I opened the file on my novel on 1st September as planned; realised I couldn’t be bothered; and promptly closed it again! And after long chats with friends and family, I finally accepted I had to give myself permission to just STOP. Do nothing at all until I felt like it. And to be frank, so much time was taken up with exercises five or six times a day, and painkillers nine times a day, there was little time left for anything else. But I did watch a lot of crap TV!
November to December
Finally, I started to get my mojo back. And for the eighth year in a row, I completed the NaNoWriMo challenge to write 50K words in thirty days. I even gave the project a name and designed a cover for it! Not having a new novel to begin, I wrote lots of short stories, some radio scripts, bits of flash fiction – and a huge amount of creative non-fiction which may never see the light of day, but which was very cathartic. I also accepted a challenge that will take me back into my old pharmaceutical world after a break of more than eight years. And I started using some of the experience I have gained in the past decade to coach other authors in their independent publishing journeys.
So three very different parts to the year. But above all, I went with the flow and had fun along the way. So I’m happy to report last year’s main aim was achieved.
Plans For 2021
I didn’t think I was going to set any objectives for this year either. But old habits die hard. So here goes:
- Today I am re-opening the file on Murder at Mountjoy Manor with the aim of finishing the final edit this month; and hopefully launching it in March or April.
- I am about to sign a contract with a traditional publisher to co-author the second edition of a text book I wrote in 2002. It’s still selling eighteen years later, but is seriously in need of an update. As am I; so there will be lots of research involved in that project.
- For years, I’ve been storing up short stories and other pieces of writing; I now have over 200 on file. This is the year I start bringing them out into the light; I predict there will be some collections of short stories and some travel shorts added to my portfolio at some point this year.
- And this is the year I finally, finally get to grips with online marketing.
In my spare time (!) I will continue as Director of Exeter Literary Festival; as Treasurer of Exeter Writers; and as Secretary of Chudleigh Writers’ Circle. All this while going with the flow and having fun.
Can someone please pass me the manual on upgrading to the 36 hour day?